By Stelios Tatsis

The story you are about to read looks like a fairy tale, but it is entirely true. I experienced it about 20 years ago. I had a farm in upstate New York that we enjoyed for many years, on weekends and major holidays as a family. I often went with two close friends, Giannis Petrakis and Giannis Kambourakis. The first was a professor of Economics, and the second a businessman, a charismatic humorist, a real joker. Every time we went to the mountains, the laughter started on the way up and ended on the way back.

That year we lived, the story was Christmas Eve, and days ago, we had planned to go and stay for two days to cut down the Christmas trees and return home to New York City. We also harbored a secret hope to see the landscape covered in snow. That morning, still dark, we returned to my house and started in a Jeep Cherokee I had at the time. With that, we laughed at the thought of what was to come during the journey, we acted like little children. We crossed the two big bridges, Throgs Neck and George Washington, which looked like hanging monsters in the night, on which countless cockroaches (cars) walked and entered New Jersey and from there uphill to our destination.

It was cloudy and bitterly cold; everything looked like it would snow, and our hope would come true. After the bridges, dawn found us, and we were delighted to see the first flakes falling, which got thicker as we climbed north. At nine o’clock we reached the village of Roscoe, which was always our intermediate station. We filled up with fuel and had breakfast at the DINER owned by Greeks from Kefalonia. When we entered, and they saw us, they cheered because they knew how we brought them newspapers and how they would learn news from Astoria and Homeland Greece – they were hungry for conversation.

We were also seen by their niece Artemis with her red cheeks that, when she laughed, formed two dimples that gave them more grace and beauty. She welcomed us and treated us to hot American coffee, which we needed. She knew what we would like to eat from the previous times and ran to the kitchen to give the order to the cook. After a while, she returned swinging with three sizeable omelets with smoked ham and fries. From the window, we could see how the snow was getting stronger, and we smiled at the desirable event that was coming.

We thanked everyone and continued our journey north. At 11.30, we were approaching the house; already, all nature was dressed in white. We passed the house of the pharmacist who was taking care of my house and cleaning the hallway. He was cleaning some hanging deer that some hunters had left for him in his yard. He came to welcome us and told me that the house was ready; the radiator and the wood stove were on. As usual, I gave him a packet of macaroons, and he gave me some fillets he had stolen from the deer he was cleaning. In a few minutes, we parked at the driveway of the house.

The house was large and spacious, and it had become an oven with a lit iron stove. The kitchen was very large and surrounded by glass. Tired from the trip, we decided to drink a coffee and go to the village supermarket for two days’ supplies. We sat at the kitchen table, which was in a corner between two windows; it was our favorite corner. Nina had called it the cozy corner. We drank our coffee and enjoyed the divine view. On Christmas Eve, nature dressed up in all its glory and majesty to welcome our God-man Christ…

In front of the house was a wild cherry tree where bluebirds and crimson cardinals with plumes on their heads leaped from branch to branch and, with musical notes, praised their caster. The poor are hungry, Kambourakis says excitedly, Giannis was the Piraeus dude (in a good way) with very big sensitivities. In the warehouse where I had the wood, I had a bag of seeds, I took a large cardboard box, put it under the tree, and dropped the seeds. In no time, the tree looked like a bouquet of colorful birds; we were surprised to find that they smelled it as if the few made a general call. After they ate and were full, they started coming to the window to chirp and tap the window with their beaks. Look, John, if it is
birds, they have come to thank us, to show us their gratitude, said Kambourakis to the professor, letting a tear fall down his face, which became the reason for us all to communicate. Due to the cloudiness, the day started getting dark, and we had to hurry to do our shopping. We went to the village and parked at the supermarket.

As soon as we entered, we were faced with a vivid image that you cannot describe unless you have experienced it. A woman was with two bags at the register to pay and leave. Suddenly a little girl jumped up to her holding three booklets with Christmas stories, and asked her to pay for them; it was her Mother who got angry and told her to take them back. The little girl started crying, literally crying, crying so much that it made my heart ache. Mommy, mommy, please pay them this will be my Christmas present, I don’t want anything else. We don’t have money; we are poor, he replied, grabbing the booklets and putting them back on the shelf.

The little girl sat on the floor and continued to cry and beg her. Her Mother grabbed her by the hand and dragged her out. My reaction was instantaneous, I ran quickly, collected all the booklets that were on the shelf, paid for them, and jumped out to catch up. They got into the car and were ready to leave. I signaled for Mother to open the window, and she opened it; the little girl was still crying. Don’t cry, I tell her, and I asked her if she believed in SANTA CLAUS Saint Nicholas, and in tears, she answered loudly YES, in fact, sir, I believe, I reached out my hand and gave her the bag with the booklets saying: “These are from SANTA CLAUS”.

What happened is another image that is hard to describe: Mother and little one jumped out of the car, hugged me, kissed me, and thanked me for an insignificant gift for me but very important to them. We were all crying together for joy, she, me, my friends, and all the villagers who realized what happened.

So you see that “happiness” is not found in many things but in each of us, in our mental strengths. Another gives little, but when he gives it, he weeps with joy and satisfaction; his soul is fed with the best food, and another gives a lot but throws it away as if it were a dog… He gets nothing in his inner self because he has no experiences and no sensitivities… Why? this, and when he gives them elsewhere, he has demands to be written as a benefactor on some marble slab that is human but who will never feel that special inner feeling that makes you live in another superior place in terms of quality and taste.

We did our shopping and returned to the farm. We spent the rest of the time touring the vast white nature and visiting well-known village haunts. We also cut our trees, which we loaded into the Jeep grill and returned to our base with pleasant memories. All the way back, the conversation was limited to the event we had experienced.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.
captatsis@gmail.com

6 COMMENTS

  1. Captain a terrific story &
    amazing isn’t it, how God arranges timing – had you arrived minutes too late that child would’ve wept all the way home?

  2. “a wild cherry tree where bluebirds and crimson cardinals leapt”… love the
    sweet Christmassy image …
    I’m curious if while up in Rosco, y’all visited orthodox monastery?

    Merry Christmas Captain!🎅🎄

  3. Nice xmas story!
    You write”That year we lived, the story was Christmas Eve, and days ago, we had planned to go and stay for two days to cut down the Christmas trees and return home to New York City.”
    So you planned to bring home and decorate the Christmas trees AFTER CHRISTMAS?

  4. Was not Christmas Eve, there is no
    language to translate exactly the
    Greek language, if you read ( try to
    find it) the Greek version it says:
    « ήταν παραμονές Χριστουγέννων)
    Παραμονές means at least one week
    before Christmas.

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